MSP+Piano: „Weihnachten in Darmstadt“ (Thu 13 Dec, @ Tom’s Place, Berkeley, 7:30pm)

The Pied Piper of Tom's Place

Under the expert/demented management of Tom Duff and co-conspirators Gino Robair and John Shiurba, Tom’s Place (3111 Deakin Street, Berkeley: map) has not only become the most interesting venue for sound art / improvised and electronic new music in the Bay Area, but also internationally famous on the improv circuit, and a favorite destination of new music greats from abroad.

Darmstädter Weihnachtsmarkt

It will be a total kick to play their „Weihnachten in Darmstadt“ (Xmas in Darmstadt) show at 7:30pm, Thu 13 Dec. (I’ll have just come back from Darmstadt the night before, and hope to add to the always well-stocked Tom’s Place food table a few goodies from the Darmstadt Xmas Market, shown above.)

More about the Xmas goodies at the end of post… first food for the ears:

Hundertwasserhaus „Waldspirale“, Darmstadt

Stockhausen, WDR Studio, 1962

Starting from seeds sown by Anton Webern, Edgard Varèse, & Olivier Messiaen’s liminal Mode de valeurs et d’intensités, then nurtured by glorious new music tradition of Darmstädter Ferienkurse (Darmstadt Summer Courses), which stretched from the 50’s through the 70’s, the Darmstadt-Köln corridor shook the world with revolutionary experiments in the multi-dimensional organization of sound by means of row-techniques, tape music, musique concrète, use of short-wave radio, and the pioneering set-up of the world’s premier electronic music studio at the Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Köln.

Luigi Nono ai registratori (foto, Archivio di Fonologia Teche Rai)

Darmstadt School“, a phrase coined for these activities in 1958 by the Italian pioneer of spatialized music, Luigi Nono, was initially associated with Karlheinz Stockhausen, Bruno Maderna, Pierre Boulez, and Nono himself, and then later with other composers, e.g. Luciano Berio, Earle Brown, Niccolò Castiglioni, Aldo Clementi, Franco Donatoni, Franco Evangelisti, Karel Goeyvaerts, Mauricio Kagel, Gottfried Michael König, Giacomo Manzoni, Henri Pousseur & Iannis Xenakis (Ιάννης Ξενάκης).

A political edge ran through these efforts, as these pioneers were writing their music in the aftermath of World War II, when many composers had had their music appropriated and used for propaganda purposes by the Nazis. To keep this from happening again, the Darmstadt School attempted to create a new, a-national style of music, and succeeded in creating a vibrant, proudly transnational community of new music explorers.

Stockhausen: Hymnen

Nowhere is this political current more clear than in Stockhausen’s 1967 electronic masterpiece Hymnen, realized at the WDR studio, which folds, spindles, mutilates, subverts, and transforms the national anthems of many countries into snatches of space melody heard through bursts of short wave by the ears of Sputnik (per the taped voice of Stockhausen’s collaborator David Johnson in the “Region III” movement: “we have to go from America to Spain – we have to get across the ocean in a few seconds…!“).

Stockhausen: Gesang der Jünglinge

Electronic, tape, and electro-acoustic works like Stockhausen’s Hymnen, Gesang der Jünglinge, Kontakte, Mixtur, Mikrophonie I, Mikrophonie II, Telemusik, Solo, Mantra, & Sirius, were (and continue to be) boundary-shattering and fresh, and are still making the heads of new listeners explode to this day. The vast musical universes opened up by these efforts remain to be explored and re-explored.

And that will be the goal of tonight’s program — to re-open our ears to this world of open transition between all signals in all time-scales without boundaries between environment, music, and sound.

Tom has arranged for elves to deposit ultra-high-quality multichannel tapes of some of the greatest of these Darmstädter Klassiker into his vault for the evening, and they’ll be re-sonified for us via the Tom’s Place Multi-Dimensional Speaker Array™.

Joe Lasqo @ Meridian Gallery, 11 Jan 2012 (Photo:,

I’ll add live trajectories through this space from my explorations in recreating and extending many of the techniques of this amazing time and place using today’s tools (Max/MSP):

digital “tape manipulation”, time warping, FM, ring mod, spatialization, samples concrètes, among others.

A particular inspiration for me in these realizations will be some of the themes which acted as strange attractors for Stockhausen in his later sonic development:

space, avant uses of world music, and non-traditional use of the voice. Another touchstone will be the piano, a key instrument for Stockhausen from his early days working his way through school as a jazz pianist to his brilliant series of Klavierstücke.

OBAFGKM Star Spectra

For space I’ll be bringing transmuted signals from electrical storms on Saturn, throbbing and whistling planetary magnetic fields and many other astral sources into the room for a play date with terrestrial ears.

Instrument, god, or rāga?

For avant world music, I’ll be using the concepts of multidimensional serialization via various meta-ragās I’ve developed in response to the question, “What if Boulez had been born in Bombay 40 years later?”, especially via another tie-in to space with the Saturnian extended meta-rāga Śani-Haṭakaṅgi (शनिहटकङी).

Deconvolving the source spectrum from the vocal tract (filter) spectrum

For non-traditional use of voice I’m going to violently extend some physical techniques of vocal-tract-reshaping pioneered in Stockhausen’s piece Stimmung by means of digital formant manipulation on vocal samples.

Stockhausen: Mantra

And for piano, as well as blending it with laptop generally, I’ll present a piano piece of mine, M-MOD4, developed by extending the two 13-note rows from Stockhausen’s 2-piano classic, Mantra, into meta-rāgas by means of modulo-arithmetic operations and creating row-based themes used in both composed and improvised sections of a South-Indian pallavi-anupallavi form.

It will be my great honor to intertwine these improvisatory offerings with multi-speaker re-sonifications of the great electronic and tape classics of the Darmstadt pioneers.

…and now back to the potential goodies from the Darmstadt Xmas Market — hope to nab some in the wild and drag them back to the cave for you all…




Ich hoffe Euch bald zu sehen bei Tomsplatzen!


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